How to Deal with the Menopausal Woman in the Room.
Hint: It’s just like the stoner!
(Editor's Note: Please read this article with its companion piece, How To Deal With the Stoner in the Room)
Everyone probably already thinks I am stoned because I live in Colorado and I often put the wrong foot forward in yoga. So I want to clear this up: I am not stoned. I am menopausal.
I recently wrote a blog about how to deal with stoners in the room and apparently, some stoners were really upset about it. So now I’m going to clarify that and say, that being high and being in menopause is very similar with the exception that for one of us things will eventually clear up.
Here’s the thing: impaired people occasionally put the wrong foot forward in a yoga class (actually, everyone does this sometime). My best advice is, get over it because someday if you get older, then you are often going to put the wrong foot forward too.
Menopause is a lot like living with constant impairment. It teaches us grace and humility to be okay with being very much, not okay in our bodies.
And yes, before all the “great teachers” write in to tell me that now AARP is going to revoke my card because I am sooooo mean and because menopause is a natural condition, let me also say, lighten up. I can write about this because I am an expert. I have lived through what may have been the worst case of menopause and yoga ever documented in medicine. In fact, I am working on a book about it. We are all lucky that nobody got seriously hurt.
I just want to assure my readers and students that even though I often appear to be stoned, I am actually just sleep deprived, sick and nauseous. That is why I have empathy with impaired students.
I want to share my hard-earned wisdom with other teachers who may also have menopausal women in the room, because up to now, this is how it’s been for me:
Teacher: “Step your right foot forward to a lunge.”
Teacher: “Right foot forward please.”
Meno-Woman: (Moves left foot forward.)
Teacher: “Um, please move the other right foot forward.”
Meno-Woman: “Man, what’s my problem?”
Right? Because the main difference between the stoner and the menopausal woman is we know immediately that it is our problem when we hold up a class. We have no idea what the heck is going on. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked the person on the mat next to me what we are supposed to be doing, and the teacher replies with “Ssshhhhhh!”
Just like any impaired yogi, menopausal women become our challenge because we must manage our classes for the good of the many and not just for the one. Here is what I’ve learned in dealing with impaired students and teachers (because I am one):
If you are lost, ask for directions. I teach an alignment-based yoga, and because I am an older yogi I must practice with good alignment as well. Therefore, I am constantly lost. I frequently ask what side we are on. Do not be afraid to ask for directions. It is so much better than doing the right side twice.
Be kind. Most menopausal women who come to practice are really sweet people, even if they seem grouchy or are sweating profusely. Try to put yourself in their position. This will take you further in communicating to them than say, speaking as if they were children, because they are old enough to be your mother and they might lecture you if you don’t show them respect. Or put you in time out. Either way, be kind.
Do not ignore the elephant. You can try to overlook the menopausal woman in the room, but here’s the thing: she could get hurt. In my opinion, you must get her quickly to the correct place in a pose even in a modified state so she is safe. Once, I fell in revolved crescent lunge and I took out an entire row of students like dominos. Keeping the menopausal woman safe will keep your entire room safe. Remember, child’s pose is for mothers too.
Offer ‘Older Yogis’ Yoga. If there is a large population of older yogis in your area, you may want to consider setting aside a specific class at the studio where everyone is welcome. I currently teach a Wisdom Warriors ™ class created by Desiree Rumbaugh, and it is one of the busiest classes on the schedule. We have fun and nobody cares if someone is on the wrong side (probably because the teacher hasn’t noticed either).
Suggest the subtle benefits of clarity, also known as hormone therapy. This is optional, and incredibly personal, but if you have a good relationship with your menopausal student and you notice she may be a danger to herself or to society, you could mention that she see a doctor. There was a time when it was not safe for me to drive. Thankfully, I realized it and saw a doctor for help.
While yoga has the power to help everyone find more in life, my belief in its transformational qualities probably held me back from seeking help. The irony is not lost on me. I waited and suffered much too long – seven years to be exact – before I got help.
If you see a student who acts impaired, who does not know the right from the left side, who seems to be a beat behind the others, and who is probably very hot, then reach out to her. She may be stoned, or perhaps, she could benefit from getting stoned. Either way, the yogic thing to do is see if you may be of service. Then send her to my Wisdom Warrior class and we’ll see if together we can figure out our right side from the left.
Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She is the author of “Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga,” and “Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga.” She is a Columnist for Elephant Journal and Origin Magazine, and a contributor to Teachasana and My Yoga Online. She is an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance and teaches Hatha Yoga in Denver, Co. You can take her classes on www.yogadownload.com.